Blue Jays should look at these under the radar relief trade options

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Sep 9, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Blake Parker (50) pitches against Toronto Blue Jays in the eighth inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Blake Parker

Parker offers an excellent buy low opportunity. Buy low is a term I’ve used plenty throughout this piece, and it’s clearly a theme here, but Parker provides a particularly interesting case. He went from being a solid reliever who provided plenty of value from the pen (0.6 fWAR) in 2013, to losing his job, and spending more than half of his time in AAA in 2014.

He doesn’t possess overpowering stuff, yet he’s always been a strikeout guy both in the minors leagues and major leagues, and his peripherals from 2013 to 2014 were similar in many ways. Of all the buy low opportunities I’ve gone through, I’m inclined to think that Parker offers the best combination of potential value and availability from the opposing club.

First off, the Cubs bullpen looks very full, which, you would think, would make him available in a trade. Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon, and Neil Ramirez are coming off strong seasons, and there spots in the bullpen should be all but guaranteed. Felix Doubront should see the bullpen as he’s on the outside looking in for the rotation, and the Cubs also signed Jason Motte, who’s expected to be in the bullpen. That leaves one available spot, and they might be inclined to give it a lefty, as Doubront is the only lefty within that group.

His strong 2013 season, saw him post a 2.72 ERA, supported by a 2.90 FIP and 3.54 xFIP, and a strong 10.68 K/9 and 2.91 BB/9. 2014 was a different story. His 5.14 ERA is ugly, but his 3.28 FIP and 3.12 xFIP suggest he could have been unlucky. His K/9 stayed strong at 10.29, and his BB/9 actually improved, going to 1.71.

The potential culprit for his struggles, perhaps the .350 BABIP he surrendered, his low LOB%, and the problems with the home run ball – 1.29 HR/9 and 10.3% HR/FB.

With the poor BABIP, and high HR numbers, you’d assume he’d have poor batted ball ratios, but they were nearly the same as 2013. His LD% was nearly identical, going from 22.1% to 22.2%, his GB% went up from 28.7% to 31.7%, and his FB% got lower, 49.2% to 46%. A 46% FB ratio is hardly good, but the dramatic spike in HR% could very well normalize to a rate similar to what it was in 2013.

His 63.0% LOB% was down from 77.4%, which also had a negative effect on his run totals. It’s another statistic that is prone to normalizing year to year.

Of course, it’s a risk to expect him to return to his 2013 numbers, but his batted ball numbers suggest it’s possible.

His repertoire essentially consists of a fourseam, curveball and splitter, all three of which had significantly reduced velocity in 2014. Despite the dip in velocity, his fourseam whiff percentage was still solid after a reduction, but his curve and splitter saw big jumps. If the velocity reduction correlated with a drop in swing and misses across the board, it would be more concerning, but he still showed the ability to miss bats.

His contact and swing rates were nearly identical as well, including his strong SwStr%, which was 11.4% in both seasons.

His AAA numbers also suggest someone who can return to his 2013 numbers. He posted a 1.77 ERA, 2.97 FIP, with a heavy strikeout total of 13.12 while saving 25 games. AAA numbers don’t always suggest he’s a capable MLB reliever, but it’s encouraging to see him get sent down and have success, unlike someone all too familiar in Steve Delabar last season.

With a full Cubs bullpen, and very similar – if not better – peripherals to his strong 2013 season, Blake Parker looks like he has a good chance to have a bounce back season, and provide value to whichever team he pitches for. If I’m the Jays, at the very least, I would be finding out the availability and asking price.

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